Global Head, Citi Private Bank
September 11, 2020Posted InCiti
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“When will life return to normal?” That is probably the question we have asked ourselves more than any other in recent months. Amid the worst pandemic in more than a century, it is only natural that we crave “normality.”
But while life before the virus was plainly preferable to today’s conditions, it was also unsustainable in many ways. Our experience of COVID-19 offers us both important lessons and a precious opportunity to start afresh. Rather than trying to reboot a flawed past, therefore, we must build a sustainable and regenerative future.
Ironically, the pandemic has given us glimpses of what this regeneration might achieve. As the lockdowns took hold, toxic emissions plunged across much of the world. Countless companies diverted spare capacity to serving the greater good. Those toiling in many essential, but sometimes overlooked jobs received long-overdue appreciation. The great experiment in working from home, meanwhile, enabled many to strike a better balance in their daily lives, devoting time previously spent commuting to fitness and family.
Admittedly, such gains came about largely unintentionally, as by-products of crisis measures. Going forward, by contrast, a healthier environment, a more equitable society and greater corporate responsibility should become primary objectives. There are encouraging early signs here. For example, various governments have pledged to spur economic recovery via Marshall Plan-style investment in basic infrastructure, digital networks, and renewable energy. But while lawmakers clearly have a role here, they can only do so much. Entrepreneurs, executives, and shareholders will be critical to pursuing sustainable regeneration.
The power of private capital to drive positive change will be the focus of our virtual summit next week. Co-hosted with our partners from across Citi’s Institutional Clients Group, “Sustainability, ESG and Alpha” will explore some of the most vital issues facing society and investors today. Among those offering their insights will be Sir Ronald Cohen, Chair of the Global Impact Group for Impact Investment; Michael Milken, Chairman of the Milken Institute; and former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. I warmly invite clients to join Harlin Singh, our Head of Sustainable Investment to learn more about the opportunities that we see.
A question we frequently hear from you is whether the rapid rise of sustainable investing in recent times is itself sustainable. Such concerns are understandable. In 2019, inflows into sustainable funds quadrupled from the previous year’s also-record levels. This momentum then continued into early 2020. Rather than a fad fueled by irrational exuberance, however, we believe these powerful flows are most likely part of a profound long-term shift. We set out our reasons for this in a new white paper, as well as the outlook for investors who seek societal benefits alongside financial returns.
Of course, the need for greater sustainability extends far beyond corporate practices. Indeed, the entire system of economic and diplomatic relationships among nations is now under intense scrutiny. In our latest "Living Beyond Borders" podcast, Catherine Mann, Citi’s Global Chief Economist, and Ian Bremmer, President, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media ask if globalism has had its day or whether it can be made to work better. This burning issue will also influence November’s US election. For an insider’s view of the race, David Bailin and Steven Wieting spoke this week to Rick Davis, who served in presidential campaigns from Ronald Reagan to John McCain. Their webcast also considers what the electoral battle of coming weeks could mean for portfolios and how you might prepare for likely volatility.
I would like to leave you with the latest in our series of musical interludes. Brought to you in partnership with the world-renowned Philharmonia, the opening movement of Gustav Mahler’s 3rd Symphony is an impressive statement of orchestral power and vigor. Often regarded as one of the greatest symphonies of all time, the scope of the piece is vast. It is Mahler’s attempt to portray the whole cosmos through music and to find humanity’s place in it. This surely makes it the perfect accompaniment as we contemplate how to build a sustainable future.